‘But where did you get it, mom?’
Beverly continued to unpack her bags slowly and methodically, like she usually did. She pulled out a melon and placed it on the counter, then she took out a bag of flour, turned it towards her and dusted it off with a brush of her hand. When she turned back to face Julie she had a streak of white powder on her cheek. ‘What does it matter where it came from, Julie? I saw it and I wanted it.’
‘Mom, you’ve got something on your cheek.’ Julie stepped towards her mother and just like Beverly used to do to her as a child, she licked her thumb and ran it down the length of her mother’s face.
‘Ew!’ Beverly said through a laugh and shooed Julie away, ‘you used to hate that when I did that! How the tables have turned.’
‘I’m a mom now, mom. I get that spit really is the best way to get crud off a face or to get fly-away hairs to stay down. Don’t change the subject. Where did you get it?’ Julie pointed to the floor at the offending object and then leaned against the refrigerator as she crossed her arms. ‘You’re on the “no adoption” list at the shelter because of what happened last time, so I know you didn’t get it there.’
Beverly sighed, ‘Fine. There was a man outside the grocery store with a box of them. I…I couldn’t resist picking one up just to hold it.’ Beverley’s eyes started to get wet.
Julie uncrossed her arms and rolled her eyes, ‘that’s what happened last time, mom. You picked one up, fell in love and then once you got it home and were bored of playing with it you left the door open and it got run over by a car. Remember?’
Beverly continued to put boxes in cupboards, ‘of course I remember. Her name was Ginger and I loved her, you make it sound like I didn’t love her.’
‘Mom, I’m sorry. Stop with the unpacking and look at me. I know you loved her, but you let her get out of the house and you never even told me she was missing. It’s like you forgot about her until the neighbour came by with her mangled body and that box of apology chocolates.’
‘That was a terrible day,’ Beverly pressed her palms on the granite surface of the counter but did not turn around. ‘I don’t like when they get bigger,’ she said just above a whisper and to the wall.
‘I know it’s hard, mom, but they get bigger. They’re not supposed to stay small forever.’ She wrapped her arms around Beverly from behind and pressed her cheek onto the back of her neck, ‘Look at how big I am and I’m still here. Just because things get bigger doesn’t mean that they stop needing you, but I really think you should take this one back to where you got it.’
Beverly turned around and Julie could see that she hadn’t managed to remove all the flour after all. Tear tracks marked her mother’s face, disrupting the flour like skis through fresh snow. ‘I can’t take it back. It’s not like Ginger.’ Beverly’s bottom lip quivered as she spoke, ‘this one was just in a box with a bunch of others, all crying, all so thin…I can’t take it back where I got it.’ Julie nodded her head slowly, her mouth formed a thin line as she crouched on the ground to examine the wretched thing her mother had brought home with the groceries. She poked it and it wriggled slightly and smiled at her.
Julie grimaced and pulled her hand away, ‘we can take this one to a shelter. I’ll take it so they don’t even have to know you’re involved. Please mom, it’s for the best.’
‘Julie,’ Beverly began as she touched her daughter tenderly between her shoulder blades, ‘please don’t make me.’
Julie rose to her feet and looked at her mom, noticing how small she was and how grey her hair had become. ‘I can’t make you, mom, but don’t you think that’s the best thing for it?’ Julie began poking around in the unpacked bags, ‘did you even get diapers? Or formula?’
‘I have some left from when Ginger was here.’ Beverly snapped, ‘and clothes and toys, don’t you think I’ve thought this through, Julie?’ ‘No mom, I don’t think you have!’ Julie grabbed Beverly by the shoulders and shook her, ‘what will happen when it starts to grow?’ Beverly looked away, ‘or, or even,’ Julie continued ‘even when…let’s face it. You’re an old woman now.’ Julie’s voice cracked, ‘who will look after it when you’re gone?’
Beverly broke away from her daughter’s grip and bent over to pick up the new addition to her family. ‘There, there,’ Beverly cooed, ‘no one’s going to take you away from me.’ Beverly held its head against her breast as she swayed from side to side, her eyes meeting her daughter’s, ‘nobody.’
‘Fine!’ Julie spat, ‘but when you…lose this one, I don’t want to know about it.’ She grabbed her handbag and marched towards the door, her feet heavier than usual. Seconds later Beverly heard a car start.
‘Now,’ Beverly looked into eyes the size and creamy colour of two freshly pressed shots of espresso, ‘what shall we call you?’